All study, a teacher may have students watch

All lesson plan formats have strengths and are designed to help you plan for student learning. Ever hear of the 4-A model? Use this lesson to learn about what makes this format unique.

The 4-A Model

Lesson plans are an important part of education. They’re a written plan of what a teacher will do in order to achieve the goals during the school day, week, and year. Typically, lesson plans follow a format that identifies goals and objectives, teaching methods, and assessment. These basic components can be modified in many ways depending on specific student and teacher needs.

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The 4-A lesson plan model focuses on four main concepts. Each is necessary for student success, and by identifying how they will be used in instructional practices, teachers ensure they are front-and-center. The four components are:

  1. Activate prior knowledge
  2. Acquire new knowledge
  3. Application
  4. Assessment

These somewhat broad categories, which we’ll narrow down in a bit, allow teachers to make sure students are ready to learn. By activating prior knowledge, students make important connections to past learning and prepare their brains for new content. New content is presented and taught, then applied to real-world or past situations.

Finally, an assessment is given to determine student understanding. Let’s dig a bit deeper into these components.

Activating Prior Knowledge

What does it mean to activate prior knowledge, and how can teachers accomplish this? The term simply refers to tapping into a student’s previous experience with the topic. For example, if the new learning is oceanic life, a teacher could activate students’ prior knowledge by connecting to other life forms they studied, or asking students to share experiences about the ocean.

In fact, many instructional methods can be used to activate prior knowledge, including:

  • Brainstorming
  • Games
  • Journaling
  • Conversations
  • Concept Mapping

Virtually any way you can think of to get students thinking about a prior experience will do the trick.

Acquire New Knowledge

During this instructional time, teachers promote higher order thinking and prompt students to use inquiry skills in order to master content. Why do this? Instead of a serve-and-return method of instruction, which simply has students listen and repeat content, the 4-A model fosters a more rigorous learning model, one that has students thinking deeply about content. This is accomplished in countless ways, such as having guest speakers, using interactive learning logs, role-playing, and teaching mini-lessons. This is the typical ‘instructional methods’ portion of lesson plans with an emphasis on pushing towards high-level skills.For one lesson in the oceanic life study, a teacher may have students watch a video of life in the ocean, then read about how mammals and fish interact to survive.

Another day she may have a zoologist speak to the students, then have students respond to the experience by writing a letter asking further questions.

Application

During this portion of the 4-A plan, teachers plan for ways students can take in the new information, consolidate it, and apply it in new and useful ways. Students apply their knowledge by sharing their ideas, creating a product, participating in activities, doing a case study, and so on.In our oceanic example, students may create a 3-dimensional model of the ocean, applying all the information they learned to demonstrate understanding.

Assessment

Finally, teachers plan on methods to assess students both during and at the end of learning. These assessments can be completed in typical ways, such as quizzes and tests, and more formative methods as well, such as giving a ‘thumbs up,’ using think-pair-share, or using exit slips. Teachers use this data to drive future instruction or determine final student understanding.For example, after a guest speaker gives a presentation, the teacher may have students write an exit slip after the guest speaker that gives three examples of new content learned, or asks a specific question. A summative assessment may be an end-of-unit test.

Sample 4-A Lesson Plan

Let’s take a look at how this all comes together with a sample for a lesson plan for oceanic life.

Objective Students will be able to explain the relationship between mammals and fish in oceanic life
Activate Prior Knowledge Students will do a 3-2-1 experience in writing, then share with group: 3 things they know about ocean life, 2 things they want to know, 1 thing they are confused about
Acquire New Knowledge Watch video about oceanic life; read follow-up article. Divide students into two groups – mammals and fish. Ask groups to find ways they interact with the other group, then partner students to have conversations about their interactions as fish/mammals.
Application Student partners present information on chart paper to the group, then synthesize as a class to create a final product of mammal/fish interactions.

Assessment As an exit slip, students create a new 3-2-1; 3 things they learned, 2 things they could teach, 1 thing they are still confused about.

As you can see, the 4-A model covers a lot of ground while at the same time requiring teachers to make sure students have a well-rounded experience in the classroom.

Lesson Summary

The 4-A lesson plan model is a written plan the focuses on four main components to help the teacher achieve goals in the classroom. Those four components are:

  • Activate prior knowledge
  • Acquire new knowledge
  • Application
  • Assessment
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